Why 250,000 passenger per year is the sustainable target for Exeter Airport
Exeter Airport must come to terms with the real world, and accept its global responsibilities
We consider that air travel in the UK must contract evenly and gradually. This must happen for every airport in the UK including Exeter Airport. No part of the economy can be insulated from its responsibility to reduce CO2 emissions.
The Carbon Trust has recently calculated the UK's carbon footprint. This shows that aviation emits 40 Million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), compared with the total UK emissions of 648 MtCO2.
These figures, however, do not take into account the fact that aircraft emissions need to be multiplied by the radiative forcing index (RFI) of 2.7. Taking this into account UK air travel emissions are 108 MtCO2 out of a total of 716 MtCO2. Thus aviation emissions are 15% of total UK emissions. (Not 1.6% which Exeter Airport keeps quoting).
By the year 2030, the UK needs to make 90% reductions in CO2 emissions. (This is the UK target if we are limit the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to 450ppm - parts per million - and keep global temperatures within 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels)
The government target, which is now out-of-date, is 60% reduction by 2050. Because the UK emits about 3 times the global average, it is fair and correct that the UK should shoulder a bigger proportionate burden of the CO2 emissions - this calculates as 90%.
In order to keep CO2 concentrations below 450 ppm, we should make these cuts in greenhouse gases as soon as possible. 2050 is too late, and is a complacent target. It is now generally accepted that a target year of 2030 carries a reduced risk of creating runaway climate change.
Thus UK emissions - in 2030 - should be cut to about 72 MtCO2 (10% of 716 MtCO2). We believe that the allocation for air travel within this target should be no more that 25%. (Even this is a greater proportion of total emissions than today's 15%) This means that 18 MtCO2 should be adopted as the 2030 target for all UK air travel emissions. This is the sustainability target. Anything more would be irresponsible, and would significantly contribute to the disappearance of low-lying nations and cities like Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Maldives, Netherlands, London, New York, Shanghai, .....
But, today's emissions from aviation are already 108 MtCO2. (Way over the sustainable target of 18 MtCO2). Even if we assume an optimistic 30% improvement in overall efficiency of operation by 2030, this reduces current levels from 108 to 75 MtCO2. (and this is assuming zero expansion of airports). Therefore, passenger numbers will have to be reduced to get the emissions down from 75 MtCO2 to 18 MtCO2. (This will require a 76% cut in passenger numbers throughout the UK).
Exeter Airport's passenger numbers were 997,000 in 2006/7.
Thus Exeter Airport's contribution to keeping within the UK's sustainability target is 997,000 x 18 / 75 = 239,000.
Exeter Airport should therefore be aiming to reduce its target to about 250,000 passengers per year by the year 2030.
This is the real world figure. If Exeter Airport wishes to expand beyond 1 million passengers per year (let alone 3.5 million!), then they will have an impossible task to justify how they could possibly achieve this sustainably, and still keep within the real constraints imposed by climate change.